Our Lung Support blend combines elecampane (Inula helenium), horehound (Marrubium vulgare), and plantain (Plantago major/lanceolata) to make an extract that is deeply nourishing to the lungs and entire respiratory system.
Herbal Eye Candy
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A Good Medicine Story
Guided by the Wise Woman Ways, Red Moon Herbs creates potent herbal products in small batches using the highest quality fresh plant material that is almost all local and all organically grown or wildcrafted.
Started in 1994 by Corinna Wood and Jessica Godino, Red Moon Herbs has seen many changes over the past 20 years, including incredible growth, two apothecaries, and, most recently, stringent compliance with FDA regulations regarding herbal medicines. In 2012, the directorship was passed to from Corinna Wood to Jeannie Dunn. Throughout these changes, the focus and mission of the business has remained strong and true: to create safe and effective herbal products for the whole family from local, abundant plants.
Exploring the temperate rainforests of western North Carolina on a misty, damp weekday morning, a blotch of white in the midst of swaths of dark grey tree bark captures my attention out of the periphery of my vision. Closing in on it, foraging backpack in hand, I see that my eyes aren't playing tricks on me this time and turning an unsuspecting leaf or a gap in the woods into a mushroom - forager's goggles, they say. Looking like a clump of stalactites lost from its cave, the oblong shape I'm drawn towards glows in the shady glen. The milky white growth protruding from the side of the white oak is, in fact, what I think it is: lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus).
Approaching the mushroom, I notice how closely it resembles a part of an underwater seascape that's meandered into the woodland ecosystem, out of place from its coral reef. Lion's mane mushroom appears to be a dense cloud of toothed ivory spines, sharp and skinny. True to its name, every spike of the fruiting body could be a thick strand of an albino lion's ruff.
Hedgehog mushroom, monkey's head, pom-pom mushroom, bearded tooth - all of these other monikers for it make sense upon visual inspection of its explosion from the tree's side.
As I reach out and touch it, I am no longer fooled about whether it has sea urchin identities: it feels and smells like a mushroom, dense and rubbery to the hands, earthy and pungent to the nose.
Where Does Lion's Mane Grow?
Hardwood trees like oak, walnut, maple, birch, and beech provide the ideal home environment from which lion's mane mycelium can fruit. While it still grows wild here in the Appalachian mountains, lion's mane can be fairly easily cultivated from the white strands of its mycelium, a method which is preferable considering diminishing habitats and environmental concerns like deforestation. Conscious consumers must be sure to source lion's mane from ethically wildcrafted or sustainably and organically cultivated sources that have a reputation for integrity.
Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom
So what's all the hype about lion's mane mushroom? Why did I get so excited upon discovering it bursting from the oak's gut on my morning walk? Is this simply the latest in the parade of super-fungi or is it all its cracked up to be, plus some? Put your thinking caps on (and take your Brain Boost or your lion's mane extract - hint, hint at what body systems it supports) and let's review what we know about this fantastic fungus.
This article will focus on the efficacy of lion's mane in three areas: the brain, the mood, and the immune system. But rather than pigeon-holing this mushroom into "that brain herb", we will briefly explore its other benefits, too. No herb acts in a vacuum, and the reality is that this multi-tasking mushroom influences many other body systems beyond the brain. Lion's mane is also prized for its ability to support hormonal health, inspire cellular and nerve growth, and support optimal liver health.
Lion's Mane for the Brain
If lion's mane had a 1960s advertising jingle written about it, it would go: "Need to beef up the brain? Consume lion's mane!" If this sing-song helps you remember what to do with this herb, fantastic. If you'd rather be briefed on what the studies have to say, read on.
Delving into the early research on lion's mane -and of course there remains so much to be expanded upon in this department - we learn that lion's mane lives up to its reputation as 'the smart mushroom'. Possessing a rich bank of antioxidants and polysaccharides in each fruiting body, lion's mane rescues and restores the brain suffering from damage or deficiency. (1)
The two areas of the brain that lion's mane provides the most support for are cognition and memory. Lion's mane is thought to support mental clarity and dispel brain fog, whether it comes as a result of postpartum hormonal changes, natural processes of aging, or after a traumatic event.
Lion's mane mushroom is well established as a booster of overall brain and nervous system health through its ability to regenerate nerves and improve nerve growth, even after enduring trauma or events that have affected brain function and cognitive or nervous system health.
Lion's mane staves off brain drain. It increases capacity for a well-oiled memory machine and creating expansion and spaciousness in the face of shut down or dimming of the old lucid lightbulb.
Lion's mane has well-documented neuroprotective and neuroregenerative qualities that give it its reputation for protecting the brain from stress, damage, and decline and maintaining a sharp mental state. (2) Lion's mane is generally recognized as safe for those of all ages and stages, though it has a particular affinity for those in their wisdom years who want to maintain and improve healthy cognition.
The literature indicates that cognition of the elderly improves when lion's mane mushroom is incorporated into their daily consumption. (3) Taken regularly on a daily and long-term basis, lion's mane is believed to interrupt a path of cognitive decline while simultaneously sharpening the thought and memory centers of the brain.
Mood Support and Lion's Mane
Through its mechanism of action on neurotransmitters and cognitive function, lion's mane has much to offer in terms of promoting a stable, happy, and balanced state of mind. Mental health is everything, especially when you find yourself in the midst of a mental challenge such as feelings of "the blues", the inability to think with clarity, or simply struggling with feelings of low energy or haziness. When you have support in your ability to think clearly, remember, and use critical thought, happiness, balance, and a sense of general well-being can follow.
This is where lion's mane comes in. Sought after for its ability to help maintain a sunny disposition, lion's mane gives a leg up to the individual who finds themselves in the mental trenches and is looking for a well-researched natural solution. Lion's mane makes an excellent addition to a full-fledged mood supportive herbal regimen, which might include St. John's wort, motherwort, and lemon balm (or a high quality blend of these like Sunny Days), along with lion's mane.
Fully aware, alert, alive, adept, and adaptable - these are all words that can be used to pinpoint the sensations that lion's mane offers those who use the extract daily.
The Immune System and Lion's Mane
Lion's mane supports sound brain and body function by supporting and stimulating the immune system, as well as the brain and nervous systems. A well-known immunomodulator, lion's mane helps to support and maintain a balanced, nourished system of defense and offense in the face of immune challenges throughout the seasons.
Lion's mane is known, like many beneficial mushrooms including chaga, turkey tail, and reishi, as an adaptogen. This means that its constituents assist the body non-specifically in adapting to the stressors of life in a healthy way. Systemically helping to modulate the immune and nervous systems via neurotransmitters, hormones, and cellular health, lion's mane normalizes and supports every organ system. Simply put, lion's mane is an adaptogen that helps your body to be its best self and live its best life - in as stress-free a way as possible.
Lion's Mane as an Edible Mushroom
While lion's mane is best known as a mushroom hosting a wealth of body and brain benefits, it also shows up on gourmet dinner plates and in lucky forager's feasts. Tender and delicious with that signature 'umami' flavor which is uniquely mushroom-y, lion's mane is a spectacular treat for the adventurous tastebuds when cooked.
The few times that I've been fortunate enough to enjoy a few buttery, salty shards of shaggy lion's mane on my plate have been some of the best meals of my life. If you're lucky enough to have fresh lion's mane be a part of your next wild foods dinner, be sure to accurately identify it (with the help of a seasoned mycologist), harvest it while keeping the precious mycelium intact, and cook it lightly with organic butter, coconut oil, or olive oil.
Lion's Mane Dual Extract
No other mushroom has near the neurological effects of lion's mane. The preferred method of assimilating all the benefits of lion's mane mushroom - and also the most convenient - is a dual extract.
Why dual extract mushrooms? A dual extract synergizes a rainbow of beneficial compounds, including beta-glucans and tritrepenes. We prize quality and sustainability and are proud to offer lion's mane on its own as a potent dual extract made using our special double extraction process.
We organically cultivate our lion's mane, which is harvested by hand during the seasons of its peak freshness and potency. The extract is made by double extracting the mushroom in both water and alcohol to concentrate both the water and alcohol soluble constituents of this valuable fungus.
Want to learn more? Check out our IG video on lion's mane.
Looking for an even broader spectrum of mushroom benefits? Our beloved Mushroom Elixir is a great alternative to a simple lion's mane extract, synergizing beneficial mushrooms reishi, maitake, chaga, and turkey tail together to bring the power of the fungus among us to you.
Our ancestors used what they could reach or what grew right outside their back door. So do/did the granny and grandpa healers who are still alive today. Who had time, resources, or the ability to buy from afar or transport goods along great distances? Exotic Amazonian (as in the jungle, not the retail mogul) antioxidant-rich superfoods were accessible only to those who lived in the Amazon. The name of the game out of necessity was “hyperlocal", and not because it was a buzzword, but because it was life.
The substances we use as medicine shift from region to region and may even change among microclimates within one community. A homestead up in a shady holler might use broad-leaf plantain to pack a wound, while those near the sunny meadow down the way might use the lance-leaved variety of the same plant. There is a magic simplicity in knowing the weeds or wild plants which grow closest to your home and touch your bare feet. Gathering abundant medicinal species and making them into tinctures, oils, dried herbs, vinegars, and salves for your own personal apothecary or herbal first aid kit can be done even with scarce monetary resources, as long as the intention, solid identification skills, and willing desire is present.
Harvesting according to the lunar cycle and clipping the aerial parts of plants during the full moon while saving underground roots for the dark of the moon/the new moon is another ritual practice that dates back many centuries. Both our ancestors and modern herbalists understand that they must get to know a plant intimately in order to come into relationship with it and to properly harvest plants at different seasons, therefore gleaning varying nutrients that manifest differently from seed to root and summer to winter. The cycles of the plant-body, human-body, and earth-body align and the synergy of this collision makes for the best medicine.
Another traditional southern folk medicine way to ingest poke is to swallow the ripe berries, which stain magenta in the wildest way and are often used as a natural dye. There is an immunity-optimizing spring cleanse protocol which involves swallowing one whole (fresh or frozen) poke berry on day one, two on day two, and so on, up until the tipping point where someone experiences symptoms associated with a strong cathartic dose of the herb (dizziness, nausea), and then stopping.
Is it Detox You're After? Or Depth?
Only you know the answer to the question posed above. But don't rush into answering it without letting the relevant organ systems of your body have a say. Culturally, we are in a moment where it is often easier to reach for a heroic seven-day cleansing program of elimination and pleasure denial than it is to peer into the root cause of an issue as something deeper, many-pronged, and not necessarily detox-able. Are those types of cleanses ever necessary? Sure. Sometimes. But what are they avoiding?
Socially, we have gathered around the now greenwashed ideas of 'clean' eating and 'whole' living as the ultimate good. Are these ideologies bad? No. But they can chip away at the picture of the self as an entity of fully embodied wisdom and paint a picture of the detoxing body pitted against the dirty, chemical-ridden world as bad, unworthy, unclean, or not enough. Which is an idea just as dangerous and demanding as untempered detox itself can be.
Detox has become something of a dirty word in the wise woman tradition, which prefers nourishment over cleansing and supportive sustenance and toning over deprivation and purging (for more on this, see my article Nutritious Nourishment vs. Dirty Detox). This thought follows the model of the body as a sort of self-cleaning oven. And let's be honest, no metaphor for the body (other than perhaps a garden! says the herbalist) is complex or nuanced enough to capture the full reality of the thousands of physiological processes that occur while we sleep and breathe, flow and flounder, consume and excrete.
We contain multitudes. The levels of environmental stressors and the ways in which we experience trauma and stress as inflammation are...dare we say it - unprecedented? And even though we are not (thankfully) entirely responsible for regularly cleaning the gunk of environmental, stress-induced, and food-based toxins out of our system since our body in its wisdom does that largely on its own with appropriate support, there are ways that we can ease and contribute to this process. While it might seem a bit counterintuitive if you've adhered to the model of consistent cleansing, perhaps the best effort we can make towards supporting the body's own detox processes is providing it with richly saturated nutrition so that it has the resources it needs to perform phase I and II detox as effortlessly and beautifully as it was designed to.
Our biological imperative towards cleansing and purifying the body follows a cyclical, seasonal path. Early spring is traditionally a time for consuming the newly sprouted growth of slightly bitter, chlorophyll-laden herbs which serve to purify and thin the blood and kickstart the sluggish digestion of winter into a new era: clover, cress, chickweed, and wild mustard. Throughout the growing season, these plants become more bitter, chewy, and fibrous, losing their appeal somewhat as other food sources come into fruition. "In the spring, impurities the body has been harboring over the winter can rise. Pathogens dormant within the body during the winter can also rise, causing illness. Spring cleansing of the body forms an important aspect of Southern Folk Medicine, helping thin the blood and ready it for the travails of summer," notes my mentor herbalist Phyllis D. Light.
She speaks of the relationship between herbal medicine and the blood, which is one element we often think of as needing regular cleansing or detoxification. "Blood flows in tune with nature, ebbing and flowing with the seasons. There is a direct correlation between the flow of blood in the body and the flow of sap in trees. In the fall, blood begins to sweeten and get thicker (increase in viscosity) as the weather grows cooler. It sinks downward and pulls inward. Hands and feet endure reduced circulation as the weather chills and blood moves increasingly to the internal organs to keep them warm and nourished. In the spring, blood thins (becomes sour) and begins to rise, moving upward and outward in order to keep the internal organs cooler."
Although new year's day or midwinter is generally a time when many of us with resolutions find ourselves purging all sugar for 30 days or eliminating certain 'cheat' foods that we indulged in over the holidays, midwinter would be a very nontraditional time for cleansing the body as the slow elimination system of the cold season requires deep nourishment and has little access to those new spring greens or warming roots like sassafras and burdock which are considered post-winter purifiers.
Fasting, heroic cleanses, and detox programs may have their place in certain situations where there is severe environmental toxin exposure, the presence of autoimmunity, or certain food sensitivities or allergies (in which case Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's bone broth-heavy GAPS protocol is my go-to). But often what is needed is less a 'hard reset' and more of a solidification of the nutrient and mineral platform the body has to draw from in the first place.
Phase I and Phase II Detox
The dual phases of liver detox are multi-faceted. Everything we eat, drink, breathe, or put on our bodies is either water or fat soluble. If it's water soluble, it is excreted by kidneys in phase I detox. If it's fat soluble, it is excreted by feces or kidneys in phase II detox. The goal of the healthy liver is to slow down phase I and speed up phase II and there are many ways to boost the body's ability to do this.
Phase I detox is supported by many nutritive herbs and foods, particularly those which are good sources of B vitamins, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and trace mineral selenium (ACES). These constituents help combat free radicals which are generated when the liver breaks down toxic substances. Foods from the brassicaceae plant family - think dark leafy greens like kale and chard as well as broccoli and brussels sprouts - support this transformative process. The herbs that catalyze and support the liver's phase I breakdown process are garlic, onions, turmeric with black pepper, St. John's wort (it does this so well, in fact, that it is this quality of St. John's wort which makes it contraindicated with some pharmaceutical drugs because it clears them out of the liver too quickly), and power-hub ginseng (root/whole plant or leaf).
Looking to support your liver's take-out-the-trash/recycling-day one? Look to formulas like fire cider or a tonic like Garlic Elixir or Ginseng Elixir. St John's wort or blends which include it, like Sunny Days or Viral Spiral, would also be in this family.
Phase II detox takes care of any leftovers from the first phase and also processes through most hormones. If there is matter that the liver was unable to breakdown in phase I, it moves it onto phase II. Foods which support phase II detox are rich in healthy proteins, such as beans, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, and milk. Sulfur-rich herbs like garlic and onions play a big part in phase II processing, as does turmeric (with bioavailability enhanced by black pepper). Conversely, the elements and states which slow down phase II processing which we want to avoid include chemical dyes (think red 40 and yellow no. 5), aspirin, mineral deficiencies, and constant exposure to environmental hazards or long-term medication use.
The herbs that are classically considered blood cleansers actually do improve phase II liver detox by cleaning or purifying the blood: burdock, yellow dock, dandelion, and red clover dried blossom (or extract, available by special request), for example. Beneficial to the liver's second phase of detox are formulas like Deep Roots, an absorbable turmeric and black pepper blend, and blood-detoxifiers like red clover or a formula like Lymph Love (including red clover).
Both phases of liver detox are deeply supported with minerals like zinc, selenium, and manganese and greatly hindered by mineral deficiency. The primary mineral-rich herbs are one of the most recognizable and immediate ways to support the detox phases. Think nourishing herbal infusions of nettles, oatstraw, red clover, and linden, plus fire cider or mineral-dense vinegars like Three Sisters Vinegar or Zesty Three Sisters Vinegar (which adds garlic to further assist with phase I and II detox).
Connecting With Your Roots: Herbs and the Liver
If we take a step back and look at the human body and the plant body as two sides of the same holograph, we can find elements of the human digestion and elimination pathways that sync up with the plant's root system. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a principle of consuming the organ with which one is challenged. For example, those with a troubled heart would eat the heart of an animal in order to strengthen their physical and emotional heart chakra or qi. In southern folk medicine,
This holy trinity of roots is what we chose to formulate our Deep Roots liver phase I and II elimination support blend: burdock, dandelion, and yellow dock. There is something beyond synergy in the way these three plants (which happen to often grow in the same landscape and sometimes right next to each other) complement each other.
Burdock is specific for aiding the body in digesting those fat soluble elements which are broken down in phase II as well as acting as a prebiotic which enhances beneficial bacteria activity and spurs the whole nutrient assimilation process. Dandelion root is quite possibly the most abundant and full-spectrum liver nourisher on earth. And if we look into its presence on the planet as an indication of its potential use, we can see a relationship between the dandelions furrowing through the grass of almost every country on every continent and the pervasive presence of liver stagnation which has become so unfortunately universal. Yellow dock not only beefs up iron absorption but smooths and benefits intestinal and colon health; its bitter components also act as the liver's greatest catalyst and asset.
The roots of these cherished field herbs go a long way in helping us humans forge a relationship with our tangled mass of roots, from the stomach to the intestine and the kidneys to the liver and throughout all the phases of our digestion and elimination process. Coming into relationship with roots which have such a pulse on the heart of the earth as they do - quite literally reaching their tendrils down into the depths in search of minerals and nutrients and pulling them up to the surface where we humans can enjoy their benefits when we consume them - can be profound. Love and appreciation for the liver goes a long way in the healing and care for this tireless organ. Listen to the needs of your liver: is it detox that it needs? Or support of its depth, from the depth of the earth?